In the past, it was seen very much as an old boys’ club, and the first women to carve out careers there had to pull out all the stops in order to make progress.
Now, the finance industry has changed so much as to be almost unrecognisable. It offers great opportunities for women, plus it pays well and provides good job security, with plenty of room for promotion. Could it be the right choice for you?
There are a number of different careers that you could consider.
One of the easiest ways into the finance industry is through accounting. You can qualify as a bookkeeper in as little as eight months and start generating an income. If you study a full accounting course, you can begin working in certain roles halfway through when you’re part-qualified. Sometimes, employers will sponsor the second half of your training. Mentoring is common within the industry, and you can expect to learn a lot from your colleagues, whether in one of the Big Four firms or with a smaller company.
Some accountants eventually strike out on their own and do very well in consultancy. The job involves managing accounts (sometimes including payroll) and ensuring that all mandated reports are compiled and submitted on time, as well as advising on accounting options to reduce tax obligations.
If you have a good degree in finance, economics or a related subject, you’ll find that it’s relatively easy to get into banking as a graduate, with most of the big banks offering graduate training programmes, and internships are available to skilled applicants at a later stage in their careers. There are opportunities for economists, statisticians and fintech experts as well as customer-facing roles, which require strong communication skills. Salaries are good and usually come with strong benefits packages and generous holiday allowances. Because banking is an international industry, there are also opportunities for foreign travel.
Alongside high street banking, those with the best qualifications can also consider investment banking. Swan Holdings Group Co-Founder Brian Weal has been very successful in real estate investment in Glasgow and has spent 30 years working in finance, illustrating the advantage of building up investment skills. Some investors start out using their own money, but most find opportunities in investment firms, developing their market analysis skills with the help of seasoned professionals. Learning how to predict the behaviour of different assets and balance portfolios could enable you to move into investment management, which can be a highly lucrative area as well as providing interesting challenges on an ongoing basis.
The insurance industry is another area predicated on understanding risk. It can be roughly divided into four areas. Underwriting requires the ability to make initial risk assessments, largely through successful engagement with customers. Claims handling is research-heavy and rewards lateral thinking, but people skills remain important. Actuarial work involves number-crunching and policy development, and human resources work requires more skills with numbers than in most industries as it interlinks the other areas. Despite advancement in computer technology now meaning that less heavy lifting is required of insurance staff, it’s still a challenging field that offers a good deal of intellectual stimulation, and it’s particularly well suited to people who enjoy solving puzzles.
Corporate finance is an area of high demand. Britain is going through a boom period for the formation of new businesses, and every one of them needs somebody to manage finance, even if it can’t afford to hire that person full-time. Many corporate financial advisers operate on a consultancy basis, and they can also find roles in finance departments within larger companies, where there are often good prospects for promotion. In a small company, working in this area requires you to be something of an all-rounder, taking care of everything from payroll to market analysis. In a larger company, there’s the opportunity to specialise. The top jobs belong to the most skilled analysts, who are able to determine the direction of the markets and develop company strategy on the basis of this, as well as analysing the financial pros and cons of potential deals.
With all these roles and more to choose from, finance is a sector with a lot to offer. The really good news is that it’s also a good sector when it comes to sideways career moves, so if you try something and enjoy it but think that you might enjoy another role more, it’s rarely too late to make a change.